Food With People’s Names

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Introducing Food With People’s Names, We’re people who care, who love food. We cook, we think about what we eat and how it’s made, and we want our readers to be able to share in the experience. We hope we bring you closer to the things you love, and help you feel a little bit more human along the way.

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Food With People’s Names

Bartlett

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Definition – a pear that has yellowish-green or sometimes red skin and whitish flesh and is the principal commercially produced pear in the U.S.

The Bartlett, also known as the Bartlett pear, is a variety of that succulent fruit named after the man who was known for distributing it, the horticulturalist and merchant Enoch Bartlett. Our earliest records of the name being used are in the early 19th century, seen in the citation below. And while the tastiness of the Bartlett has surely played a role in its prominence, we must not downplay the fact that other popular pears of the time had such unfortunate names as the Doyenne Gris and the Moorfowl Egg.

Of the Fall pears that succeed well in the country, you have the “Seckle,” “Epargne,” “Swiss Bruches,” “Moorfowl Egg,” Verte Longue, a new variety called the “Bartlett pear” and “Doyenne Gris,” also the “Gibson pear.”
Horticulturist. The New England Farmer, 17 Mar. 1826

Peach melba

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Definition – half a peach filled with cream set on a bed of vanilla ice cream and covered with raspberry sauce

The dessert known as peach melba (also called pêche melba), is named after Helen Porter Mitchell. Confused? We understand. Helen Porter Mitchell was the birth name of the famed Australian opera singer Nellie Melba.

Melba was celebrated enough that several foods were named in her honor: in addition to the peach concoction we have melba toast and melba sauce (“sauce made essentially of raspberries and sugar and served often with ice cream or whipped cream on fruit”).

It may have been unethical for the lady to eat two “peche Melbas” in this day of high cost of everything, but it seems almost to have been worth the price thus to have vindicated the common sense of the English higher court.
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), 9 Jul. 1919

Caesar salad

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Definition – a tossed salad usually made of romaine, garlic, anchovies, and croutons and dressed with olive oil, coddled egg, lemon juice, and grated cheese

Yes! Caesar salad is named after Caesar, but no, it is not the Caesar of the Julius variety. The salad is named for Caesar Cardini, an American restaurateur, after a restaurant of his in Mexico began serving the dish. Although the salads are thought to have been born in the 1920s we do not appear to have begun calling them Caesar salads until the mid 1940s.

News of Food. Some Advice on the Meat Thermometer and Another New Recipe for Caesar Salad.
—(Headline) The New York Times, 29 Jan. 1947

Béchamel

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Definition – a white sauce sometimes enriched with cream

The thick white sauce was invented by, and thus named after, Louis de Béchamel, a French courtier who served in the court of Louis XIV. Béchamel died in 1703, but it did not take long for his sauce to become part of our culinary and linguistic landscape. A book from the middle of the 18th century containing a series of proposed dinner menus recommends “mushrooms a la Bechamel” as part of the second course, along with roast snipes, hare cake in jelly (yum?), and asparagus a la creme (second courses were apparently somewhat larger back then).

“On my first day I was asked to make a spaghetti carbonara. ‘Easy,’ I thought. ‘I know this’. But the head chef asked if he could he could show me how he made it, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when he started to make a bechamel sauce. It was awful, just disgusting. But it got worse — after he’d made this gloopy, thick sauce, he added it to spaghetti which was pre-boiled.”
Sunday Business Post (Cork, Ireland), 17 Feb. 2013

Graham cracker

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Definition – a slightly sweet cracker made of whole wheat flour

The graham cracker (as well as the substance from which they are made, graham flour) is named for Sylvester Graham, a 19th century advocate of what some might call clean living. Our dictionary refers to Graham as a ‘dietary reformer,’ a label that rarely indicates a person who is well-beloved by the masses.

So it is unsurprising that the entry for Graham in American National Biography notes three separate occasions on which he was physically attacked by groups representing food interests: twice by butchers (“for denouncing meat as sexually arousing”) and once by bakers, after he suggested that mass-produced bread was of insufficient dietary value.

foods and drinks you never knew were named after real people

Arnold Palmer, named after the popular golfer

Arnold Palmer, named after the popular golfer
The famous refreshing drink is one half lemonade, one half iced tea. 
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The late Arnold Palmer “invented” this simple mocktail by mixing his wife’s homemade iced tea with lemonade. He loved the concoction so much that he was known for taking a thermos of it with him almost every time he went golfing. By the 1960s, the drink was already known as the “Arnold Palmer.”

Bananas Foster, named after a New Orleans crime-stopper

Bananas Foster, named after a New Orleans crime-stopper
This dish of caramelized bananas over ice cream is traditionally flambeed with banana liqueur and rum. 
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Bananas Foster — caramelized bananas over ice cream — was originally invented in New Orleans in the early 1950s at a restaurant called Brennan’s. Brennan’s owner, Owen Brennan, challenged his chef to create a dish using bananas (a major import in New Orleans at the time), and Chef Paul Blange created this fiery dessert and named it in honor of Richard Foster, the New Orleans Crime Commission chairman and Brennan’s good friend.

Caesar Salad, named after a Mexican restaurateur (not the Roman emperor)

Caesar Salad, named after a Mexican restaurateur (not the Roman emperor)
A Caesar salad is traditionally made with garlic, croutons, Parmesan cheese, egg, and Worcestershire sauce. 
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Most people assume that the Caesar salad is named after Julius Caesar, but the salad’s name actually comes from Caesar Cardini, a Mexican restaurateur who invented the dish in Tijuana when he was running out of food during a 4th of July rush in 1924. He allegedly staunchly opposed putting anchovies into the salad, which many recipes call for. 

14 Popular Foods Named After Real People

Is there a person behind your favorite food? We’re dishing on these popular classics. Read on, but watch out—it may make you hungry!

The next time you head into your kitchen looking for a meal or snack, you might take a moment to reflect on the origin of it—you might be surprised to know that some of your favorite foods started out as happy accidents by some very interesting people. Here are 14 foods named after people and the stories of how they became world-renowned.

1. Granny Smith Apples

Ever bite into a crisp, tart Granny Smith apple and wonder, who was Granny Smith? Was she a real person? The origin of the Granny Smith Apple (Malus domestica) begins in Australia with a woman named Maria Ann “Granny” Smith. One day, Smith was cooking with French Crab Apples and threw the remains into a compost near a creek flowing behind her farmhouse. Over time, the pile sprouted a chance seedling and created apple trees that grew without human intervention. However, the apples that grew were not French crab apples. This mysterious cross-pollination in those wild conditions created a new apple tree that produced green and tart fruit. Granny Smith herself could not understand the true parentage of this new variety (it’s suspected to have been the European Wild Apple). Smith tasted this new apple and loved the bright flavor and simplicity, so she decided to propagate the new apple trees herself.

Granny Smith passed away just a few years after her discovery, but her unique apples found a large following among local growers, and eventually gained national attention in Australia by 1890, and eventually the world.

2. Caesar Salad

Classic Caesar Salad.
Classic Caesar Salad also contains anchovies.
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The history of the Caesar Salad is a fun one that doesn’t originate with Julius Caesar, but rather Caesar Cardini.

Caesar Cardini’s family made the move from Italy to California in the early 20th century. Caesar grew up and started working in the restaurant business. However, during the height of prohibition in the United States, people working in the hospitality industry suffered. Caesar was smart though. After his brother noticed that a lot of Americans would cross the Mexican border for alcohol, he and Caesar moved their restaurant business to Tijuana.

On July 4th, 1924, Americans wanted to celebrate Independence Day with a few drinks during the height of prohibition, so they migrated across the border, packing the restaurants and bars. This mass influx caused food supplies to run low, so Caesar got creative. He found some items he had on hand; some garlic, eggs, Parmesan cheese, Romaine lettuce, olive oil, and a few other scraps he threw into the mix. With a little bit of finesse and salesmanship, customers loved the Caesar Salad, and the rest is history!

3. Cobb Salad

Another common myth, similar to the Caesar salad, is that the ubiquitous Cobb salad is named after the famous baseball player, Ty Cobb. Not so! The actual story of the Cobb salad starts in 1937 in Hollywood, California, at the Brown Derby Restaurant. Bob Cobb, the owner of the restaurant, was looking for something to eat, pulling out various items from the refrigerator, including lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, chives, cheese, and avocado. Bacon was being cooked in the restaurant, so he grabbed a few slices of it to add to his new concoction. With some resourcefulness, creativity, and late-night hunger of whatever food Cobb could add to his salad, the Cobb salad was officially born.

4. Graham Cracker

The cracker was invented by a Presbyterian pastor named Sylvester Graham who was part of the 19-century “Temperance Movement.” This cracker contained flour and a variety of spices and was introduced as part of his radical vegetarian diet. But why was this diet so radical? Graham believed that minimizing pleasure and stimulation of all kinds, combined with a strict vegetarian diet was how God intended people to live and that following this law would keep people healthy and away from sin. His followers were called Grahamites, and breads and crackers made with graham flour were created for them.

5. Peach Melba

In 1892, operatic singer Nellie Melba performed at Lohengrin in London. To celebrate the occasion, French chef Auguste Escoffer, who was working at the Savy Hotel at the time, created an original dessert for the performer. This dessert consisted of fresh peaches, raspberry sauce, and vanilla ice cream, all served on a silver dish with an ice sculpture of a swan, which was featured at the opera. It was an elegant and specific dish made just for the performer. The original name of the dish was Peach With A Swan. A few years later, when Escoffer teamed up with Cesar Ritz—to create and open the Carlton Ritz Hotel—he changed the recipe slightly and christened it the Peach Melba.

6. Fettuccini Alfredo

Fettuccine all’ Alfredo, a delicious and popular pasta dish made from butter, cream, and parmesan cheese, was supposedly invented by Alfredo di Lelio in 1914. According to accounts by his family, Alfredo di Lelio opened a restaurant in Rome. His wife had just given birth and had no appetite, so to encourage her to eat, Alfredo concocted a butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano masterpiece that she gobbled up. That was the start of a tasty pasta sauce that grew beyond Rome and into your kitchen.

7. Eggs Benedict

Next time you order up your “Eggs Benny,” you’ll have a fun story to tell at the brunch table. Actually, there are two versions of how this dish originated. One story says we owe thanks for this popular brunch item to a hungover Wall Street broker, Lemuel Benedict. In 1894, he ordered his invention at the Waldorf Hotel after having one too many drinks the night before. He wanted two poached eggs on top of buttered toast, crispy bacon, and topped with hollandaise sauce. The head chef, Oscar Tschirky, loved this new creation and put it on the menu, though he added the signature Canadian bacon and English muffin.

Another tale says Eggs Benedict is the creation of chef Charles Ranhofer of Delmonico’s Restaurant in Manhattan. It’s said that he came up with the combination in the 1860s when one of his regular diners, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, was bored with his menu and wanted something new. Eggs a la Benedict was published in his cookbook in 1894.

8. Bananas Foster

Even if you’ve never tasted Bananas Foster, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t love the very idea of this dessert: bananas swimming in a warm rum-infused caramel sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream. It’s the stuff dreams are made of! So who thought of this delicious after-dinner treat, which is usually ignited before serving for a spectacular presentation? Legends abound that this dessert was created at Brennan’s, a New Orleans restaurant, but it was actually introduced years earlier at another New Orleans gastronomical hotspot, Vieux Carré, owned by Owen Brennan. Since New Orleans was a major import city for bananas from South America, chef Paul Blangé worked with the Brennans to modify an old family dish, which included bananas. After experimenting with a few methods, they came up with what we know as Bananas Foster, named after Richard Foster, the chairman of the New Orleans Crime Commission, and friend of the Brennans.

9. Chicken á la King

The story of Chicken á la King might be the most versatile of origins out of all the foods. Mentions of a similar dish have appeared as far back as 1665, however, these notations are mostly without recipes and they are not similar to the modern Chicken à la King we know today.

One tale is that the dish was created in the 1890s by hotel cook William “Bill” King of the Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia. A New York Tribune editorial in 1915 said the following at the time of King’s death:

The name of William King is not listed among the great ones of the earth. No monuments will ever be erected to his memory, for he was only a cook. Yet what a cook! In him blazed the fire of genius which, at the white heat of inspiration, drove him one day, in the old Bellevue, in Philadelphia, to combine bits of chicken, mushrooms, truffles, red and green peppers and cream in that delight-some mixture which ever after has been known as “Chicken á la King.”

10. Oysters Rockefeller

The name Rockefeller may sound familiar (especially to New Yorkers) so if you guessed that this tasty appetizer was named after one of the wealthy family members, you’d be correct. The dish was named after John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil Company and the wealthiest American at the time. The basics are oysters on the half-shell topped with a special green sauce (supposedly a nod to Rockefeller’s wealth), bread crumbs, then baked or broiled. It was created in 1899 by New Orleans chef, Jules Alciatore. The original sauce recipe is a secret—and Alciatore wouldn’t give up the recipe even on his death bed!

11. Dr. Pepper

Who doesn’t love this Texas-based beverage? We owe a debt of gratitude to Charles Alderton, a young Waco, Texas pharmacist who, in 1885, noticed patrons to the pharmacy loved the sweet, candy-like smell of the fountain machine. He was determined to recreate that smell in the form of one beverage. Alderton developed his first version of the drink and customers at the time just called it a “Waco.” The drink was given the name Dr. Pepper as a tribute to Dr. Charles Pepper, who was a friend of the drugstore where Alderton worked.

It’s well known that this fizzy drink was created with 23 flavors (check the number 23 on the side of a Dr. Pepper can). However, the original recipe is a closely guarded secret. But fans of the beverage have made some intelligent guesses; including (in alphabetical order) amaretto, almond, blackberry, black licorice, caramel, carrot, clove, cherry, cola, ginger, juniper, lemon, molasses, nutmeg, orange, prune, plum, pepper, root beer, rum, raspberry, tomato (tomato?!), and vanilla.

Fun Fact: Dr. Pepper was presented at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1885, putting Dr. Pepper on the market one year before Coca-Cola, making Dr. Pepper the oldest soda in the world that is still available for purchase to this day!

12. Dom Pérignon

While Dom Pérignon has a name associated with the modern world and all the wealth and fame associated with the brand, the actual Dom Pérignon was a Benedictine monk. From 1638 to 1715 Pérignon lived in Hautvillers in the Champagne region of France. While he spent 47 years of his life in the Abbey of Saint Pierre, he worked diligently on improving some of the oldest and most beneficial aspects of champagne-making. The monastery where he spent his adult life is now the property of Dom Perignon winery.

13. Béarnaise Sauce

Like a lot of the items on this list, Béarnaise Sauce was created by accidentally putting all the perfectly paired ingredients together. Considered the “Mother sauce” of all French dishes, Bearnaise is the emulsification of egg yolks and melted butter cut with vinegar and flavored with tarragon, shallots, and black pepper. Béarnaise Sauce is similar to another French sauce, Hollandaise, as both have the same melted butter and egg yolk base. The creation is credited to Chef Jean-Louis Françoise-Collinet of France. The connection is due to the fact that the restaurant where Francoise-Collinet worked was in the former residence of Henry IV of France, who was a gourmet himself and who hailed from Béarn, a town in Southwestern France. The sauce was named Béarnaise in Henry’s honor.

14. Reuben Sandwich

Reuben Sandwich, classic traditional American bar/pub menu item, on grilled rye bread, corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and topped with thousand island dressing and french fries in background.
Reuben Sandwich
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This delicious deli sandwich has a fun history with a very American beginning. While it seems New York would be a natural place of origin for this sandwich, the legend that has stuck around is that this layered sandwich was created in … Nebraska!

Reuben Kulakofsky, a Jewish Lithuanian-born grocer residing in Omaha, asked for a sandwich made of corned beef and sauerkraut. This sandwich was something he took to his weekly poker game that was held at the Blackstone Hotel between 1920 through 1935. The participants of the poker game called themselves “the committee” and the group included the hotel’s owner, Charles Schimmel. However, Schimmel’s son, who worked in the kitchen, made the first official Reuben for him, adding Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing to his order, putting the whole thing on rye bread. That sandwich is now an American classic!

15 food-inspired baby names

Trying to pick the sweetest name for your wee one? Why not take baby name inspiration from these delicious foods!

Have any weird or constant food cravings during pregnancy? Why not toss around the idea of naming your sweet babe after one of these delicious foods. At the very least, this list of food-inspired baby names could prove helpful in figuring out what to have for a snack.

1. Barry/Berry
Like most names, this one has different meanings in different cultures. In Gaelic, Barry is a male-given name meaning “spear.” In English culture, the rugged name means “fair-haired.” We like to think of it as meaning “fat, juicy fruit.”

2. Clementine
Meaning “mercy” or “clemency,” this is one sweet name. It’s a classic, old-timey name, too. Does the lyric “Oh my darling, Clementine” ring a bell?

3. Cocoa/Coco
Perhaps most well known as the moniker of the woman behind the French design house Chanel, this name originated as a pet name—oh, my sweet Coco! Fun fact: Coco Chanel’s real name was Gabrielle Chanel.

4. Kale
Traditionally, this name has been the shortened version of Kaleb and Kaley. But thanks to the popularity of the leafy superfood, many parents are naming their sweet babes Kale.

5. Hazel
Okay, maybe this is a bit of a stretch, but we derived Hazel from hazelnut and think it’s so adorable. The old-fashioned name means “commander.” Julia Roberts’s daughter dons the name and, more recently, Emily Blunt, chose this name for her new babe—she says her and her husband like “old-lady names.” In pop culture, the heroine from The Fault in Our Stars rocks the name.

6. Chuck
Commonly a shortened form of Charles, this name has English and German roots. Famous Chucks include rock ’n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry and basketball player Chuck Taylor, who inspired the iconic kicks. It’s also the name of a delicious cut of steak. Mmm!

7. Sherry
In French, chéri means “dear one” or “darling” (Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour,” anyone?). For our purposes, it’s a Spanish wine. Treat yourself to some after you get that baby out, Momma!

8. Colby/Colbie
Does anyone else get hungry when they meet someone with this name? If you weren’t already aware, Colby cheese (named for the city in Wisconsin where it was invented) is delicious. The name itself definitely isn’t cheesy—just ask Colbie Caillat.

9. Cherry
This name doesn’t really have any profound meaning beyond “delicious, pitted fruit.”

10. Reuben
The Hebrew name means “behold, a son.” More commonly—like, say, at the deli—a Reuben is warm corned beef with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese sandwiched between toasted rye bread. Having a craving? Sorry….

11. Olive
Olive is the female version of Oliver, and we think it’s beyond adorbs as a baby name. Famous Olives include Drew Barrymore’s daughter and Isla Fisher’s babe.

12. Peach/Peaches
Known mostly as a nickname, Princess Peach from Nintendo’s Mario is one cool chick.

13. Rosemary
The old-timey name is Latin based and mentioned in Greek mythology and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. George Clooney’s aunt (who was quite famous in her own right—White Christmas, guys!) wore the name well. Horror buffs will be familiar with the moniker from the book/movie Rosemary’s Baby. And foodies will be familiar with it as a fragrant herb.

14. Maple
Known for their hearty strength and sweet syrup, maple trees represent great traits for a little lady. This name isn’t very common—yet—but it was catapulted into the spotlight by Jason Bateman after the arrival of his little girl, Maple Sylvie, in 2012.

15. Benedict
Hearing the name Benedict used to conjure up thoughts of brunch and the weekend, but now it probably makes your knees tremble as you picture heartthrob and good guy Benedict Cumberbatch. The name itself is ancient—it’s a Latin name meaning “blessed.”

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